Discovering the Premier Selection of Outdoor String Lights: Unveiling the Most Sought-After Decorative Lighting Options

Decorative string lights have become a staple in home decor, adding a touch of charm and enchantment to any space. But with so many options on the market, finding the best outdoor string lights can be a daunting task. That's why we've compiled a list of top picks for you, taking into consideration factors such as power source, bulb type, brightness, and weather resistance. Join us as we delve into the world of string lights, revealing how we tested them and unveil our top recommendations for a truly illuminated outdoor experience.

Power Source

When it comes to purchasing string lights, the first thing you need to consider is the power source. According to Amber Freda, a custom landscape and garden designer in NYC, if you have a safe outdoor electrical outlet, you can opt for regular electric string lights. However, if you don't have an outlet or it's inconveniently placed, you should consider solar or battery-operated string lights.

Freda also mentions that the color of the cord can vary, so it's important to consider this when matching the lights to your outdoor decor. The most common cord colors are black, green, and white. You should take into account the backdrop on which the lights will be placed when choosing the color of the cord.

To create a twinkling effect with your outdoor lights, you'll need a power source that is easily accessible and compatible with the type of string lights you purchase. Many string lights are designed to be plugged into an electrical outlet, with the most durable ones featuring protected sockets to keep out moisture. However, if you don't have an available outlet, you can look for USB-powered or solar string lights. For example, the Brightech LED Solar String Lights, which have been tested in a lab, come with a solar panel that can be clipped onto a balcony or staked in the ground, allowing you to string them just about anywhere.

Bulb Type

String lights offer a wide variety of bulb types and shapes, but the most common ones are LED bulbs. LED bulbs, such as the ones found in the Hampton Bay string lights, offer the longest lifespan and the best energy savings. However, you still need to decide whether you prefer a bright, vintage light from an Edison-style bulb or a softer glow from globe bulbs. It's worth noting that some string light bulbs are made of plastic for extra durability, while others are made of glass and require careful handling.

Other bulb types include battery-powered and solar lights. These options don't require electricity but may have a shorter lifespan compared to plug-in options. One advantage of these bulb types is the absence of unsightly wires in your outdoor space. Additionally, plugs on string lights are often not weatherproof, so they must be covered at all times. On the other hand, lights like our favorite battery-operated lights from koopower are entirely weatherproof and can be exposed to the elements.

Brightness

When it comes to outdoor lighting, you don't have to settle for a steady glow. Many string lights offer the option to use a dimmer or come with a remote control that allows you to control various lighting effects. Some string lights can strobe or flash, while others can twinkle or fade in and out. With smart lights like the Grovee Warm White Wi-Fi & Bluetooth Smart Outdoor String Lights, you can fully customize your lighting experience, from the color to the brightness to the strobing effect.

Weather Resistant

The most important factor to consider when choosing outdoor string lights is their weather resistance. You want lights that can withstand rain, sun, wind, and even snow, depending on your location. All the options on this list are designed to be durable and weatherproof, ensuring they will last a long time despite the elements. For example, the Pottery Barn LED String Lights, which we consider the best overall pick, sustained high winds and rain during testing without any damage.

How We Tested the Best Outdoor String Lights

Our testing process was rigorous to ensure the quality of the outdoor string lights before recommending them to readers. We followed strict guidelines and used a rubric to evaluate the lights. This included hanging some models and leaving them in place for several days. During the evening, we performed activities like reading or grilling, relying solely on the illumination from the lights. We scored them based on their brightness and illumination.

For lights that claimed to be shatterproof, we dropped them from head height onto a concrete patio to test their durability. We also subjected the lights advertised as waterproof to rainstorms or sprayed them with water (for those positioned under the umbrella or covered patio). After they dried, we tested them again. Additionally, we took note of the cord length, the number of bulb sockets, and the ease of hanging the lights on a structure. Some of our top picks also come with replacement bulbs.

Our Top Picks

After testing a wide variety of string light sets, we have found that the following models exceed our expectations in multiple categories. Rest assured, these string lights are durable and capable of lighting up various outdoor spaces. Whether you need highly weather-resistant lights, vintage-style Edison bulbs, or enchanting fairy lights, this list includes options to illuminate any outdoor area.

The Best Outdoor String Lights Option: Brightown Patio String LightsThe Best Outdoor String Lights Option: Brightown Patio String Lights

We were able to create a warm and inviting atmosphere in the backyard using these outdoor string lights from Brightown. With their elegant, vintage aesthetic, featuring rounded Edison glass bulbs and a 100-foot length, these lights added a touch of sophistication.

Not only are these string lights waterproof, but they are also energy-saving and compatible with dimmers. With an output of 23 lumens and an energy use of 5 watts per bulb, these lights provided ample brightness during even the darkest hours of the night. The string includes 100 G40 incandescent bulbs and comes with four replacement bulbs for any accidents. With a warm white color temperature of 2,700K, these romantic string lights truly set the backyard aglow.

Installing these lights was effortless thanks to the attached gutter clips. Each socket on the string has its own clip, allowing us to easily create an overhead grid pattern by hooking them to clotheslines. With this pattern, we could comfortably lounge beneath the lights long after dark and read our magazines without any issues. Unlike the shatterproof bulbs we tested, these glass bulbs remained intact even when dropped.

We plugged the string lights into a dimmer cord, which allowed us to adjust the intensity to create a soft glow. With 100 bulbs spaced just 12 inches apart, these Brightown incandescent string lights are perfect for parties, adding ambience to outdoor spaces, or providing a sense of security.

Product Specs

  • Bulb type: Incandescent
  • Number of sockets: 100
  • String length: 100 feet
  • Connectable: No

Pros

  • Bright, clear lighting with 104 included glass bulbs
  • Easy installation using gutter-clip system
  • Includes 4 replacement bulbs

Cons

  • The 100-foot cord can tangle easily
  • Cannot connect additional sets to extend length

Get the Brightown patio outdoor string lights at Amazon or Brightown.

Our Top Picks

We have discovered that the following string light set is excellent for handling inclement weather. Lemontec's commercial-grade outdoor string lights kept our driveway well-lit, even after a rainstorm. With their Edison-style bulbs on a black rubber cable, they have a classic look that suits a variety of decor styles.

These string lights demonstrated exceptional resistance to wet weather due to their waterproof and tear-resistant materials, making them suitable for year-round use. With insulating layers and high-quality construction, these lights are safe to hang in different climates and temperatures. The incandescent bulbs are encased in crystal-clear glass globes.

The heavy-duty rubber cord is substantial and flexible enough to wrap around narrow railings or tree branches. Lemontec's 11-watt incandescent bulbs provided bright light that illuminated the front of our garage and the concrete driveway long after darkness fell.

The only downsides to this set are the widely spaced sockets (3 feet apart) and the fact that hooks are needed to hang the lights on a structure. However, they can easily wind around columns or posts without the need for hooks. While we tested only one strand of these lights, it is possible to connect a second string for double the illumination.

Product Specs

  • Bulb type: Incandescent
  • Number of sockets: 15
  • String length: 48 feet
  • Connectable: Yes

Pros

  • Bright 11-watt incandescent bulbs
  • Heavy-duty cord for durability
  • Expandable cord for additional length, if necessary

Cons

  • Sockets are widely spaced, which may not suit everyone's preferences
  • Requires hooks or nails for hanging
  • Glass bulbs are not shatterproof

Get the Lemontec outdoor string lights at Amazon.

Our Top Picks

Add a touch of color to any outdoor space with this set of color-changing string lights. The Enbrighten string lights offer 16 color options, allowing for up to 120 possible combinations and creating a vibrant atmosphere.

The 48-foot weatherproof strand features 24 Edison-style bulbs. Each impact-resistant acrylic bulb uses only 1 watt of power but produces a warm glow. With the included remote, users can switch between single solid colors, two-color combinations, and various preset color modes for different occasions and holidays.

The 2,200K warm glow creates a bright and inviting mood when set to the white-light option. The remote also allows for setting a timer, adjusting the light intensity, and selecting fade and strobe effects. We hung these lights around the inside perimeter of a covered porch, and while they required small hooks for each bulb socket, they were protected from a rainstorm that affected other sets we tested. Despite being exposed to the rain, these lights remained unaffected.

Product Specs

  • Bulb type: LED
  • Number of sockets: 24
  • String length: 48 feet
  • Connectable: Yes

Pros

  • Solid acrylic LED bulbs provide ample light
  • Impact-resistant construction withstands heavy-duty use and various weather conditions
  • Customizable for different ambiences; dimmable using the remote
  • Heavy-duty cord withstands abrasions

Cons

  • Hooks are required for hanging and not included

Get the Enbrighten outdoor string lights at Amazon, Lowe’s, or The Home Depot.

Our Top Picks

Create a whimsical and warm ambience in your garden or patio with this 99-foot fairy light strand. Twinkle Star's fairy lights are an excellent choice for decorative accent lighting.

The long strand consists of 300 tiny LED string lights on a copper wire. The flexible wire allows for easy wrapping around trees, bushes, and columns, or for stringing along walls and ceilings. However, we found that the best effect was achieved by concentrating the lights in a small space.

The LED bulbs on these lights are tiny specks woven along the surface of a coated copper wire. While they may not provide enough brightness for reading after dark like some of the other sets we tested, they create a magical effect when the copper wire is arranged in a compact space. We experimented by looping the wire inside a glass vase, which resulted in a stunning centerpiece—a perfect setting for a memorable outdoor dinner for two.

These Twinkle Star fairy lights are advertised as water-resistant, and we confirmed this by misting the entire coil with water and letting it dry. Once dry, the lights turned right back on. The included remote offers eight lighting options, though we found some of the flashing modes to be somewhat annoying. However, the slow on/off fading effects and solid illumination options truly made these lights stand out on our nighttime table.

Product Specs

  • Bulb type: LED
  • Number of sockets: 300 (bulbs)
  • String length: 99 feet
  • Connectable: No

Pros

  • Remote control for easy adjustments to suit different ambiences
  • Battery-operated, allowing for versatile usage and easy installation
  • Creates a uniquely stunning effect unlike other string lights

Cons

  • The delicate copper wires can tangle easily
  • Requires 6 AA batteries to operate, which are not included

Get the Twinkle Star outdoor string lights at Amazon.

In conclusion, when it comes to choosing the best outdoor string lights, it all boils down to finding the perfect balance of power source, bulb type, brightness, and weather resistance. After thoroughly testing numerous options, our top picks consistently stood out for their exceptional performance and durability. Whether you are looking to transform your backyard into a whimsical wonderland or create a romantic ambiance on your patio, investing in these popular decorative string lights is a surefire way to elevate your outdoor space and create unforgettable memories. So go ahead, light up the night and let the enchantment begin!

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